Wednesday, July 30, 2014

He is (The Names of God) by Eric Ludy

I hope you are all having a blessed summer. The youth pastor at my church closed last Sunday's sermon with this video below. It is so powerful and gorgeous and will get your eyes upon the Savior of our lives. 

One of my favorites, "He is my Husband." Whew!

I encourage you to take the time to give it a watch and let me know what "He is" to you. God bless you. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Taking a Summer Break

I have been thinking about and studying many things lately with regards to what I believe and my walk with Christ past, present, and future. It is in large part because of this spiritual season I’m in that I think it would be a great idea if I were to take some time off and process all that God is trying to share with me during this time.

So, this summer, I will take a break from my “Under the Shadow of His Wings” blog.

Please pray for me as I take this little pause in sharing my devotionals.

May God bless you.

Until next time,

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: 
for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, 
that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”
—John 16:13

Monday, June 02, 2014

Handfuls of Purpose: A Poem and a Devotion

“And let fall also some of the handfuls of purpose for her, and leave them, that she may glean them, and rebuke her not.”—Ruth 2:16


God to Boaz
Let fall handfuls of purpose for her
She knows not the blessings I have in store
And while My plans for her are taking form
As she waits, please bless her with provision, kindness, and care

Boaz to His Men
Let fall handfuls of purpose for her
As she ministers to her mother-in-law and likely grieves the passing
Of her husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law
Comfort her with generous amounts of barley in our harvest
and protect her from any harm

I admire this young lady
She has shown commitment to our God
By leaving her comforts, her home, and her family—all she knows
To join herself with His people
Out of love for her mother-in-law

Show her the kindness of our God
Let her know that He does not let one of His children go uncared for
Show her the respect that she likely has never known
By letting handfuls of purpose fall before her
And watching over her as she gleans in my field

While I may not see the picture clearly
I know she is a special woman
She's young, yet has shown great wisdom
In how she is faithful and obedient to her mother-in-law

Boaz to God
So, Lord God,
Help me be to her
All that you are to me.
While I let handfuls of purpose fall before her.

In the book of Ruth, Boaz told his young men to let “handfuls of purpose” fall on the ground for Ruth to pick up and glean. Not only was she to glean after the reapers what fell to the ground, more handfuls of barley were to be dropped on purpose on the ground in front of Ruth to glean. As far as we know, she was the only one of the maidens of Boaz' field who got this privilege. I think it could be said that she did not know this provision was taking place on her behalf. She just went along with her commitment to provide for her mother-in-law and reaped blessings in return.

So, too, in our lives. God's handfuls of purpose may not be easily understood or seen by us at the times of His provision of them, but when we look with hindsight back on the workings of God in our lives, we then see clearly that He, too, lets fall handfuls of purpose (or in a general sense, handfuls of blessings) before us.

Another way of saying this is that God not only provides for us, He gives us much more than we expected or even hoped for from Him. This could be monetary provision. It could be in the form of wise counsel from our brothers and sisters in the Lord. It could be the illumination He grants us when we read His Word. Whatever it is, if God is doing the providing, it is abundant, free, and given without rebuke or strings attached.

I think many of us, who have trusted Christ as our Savior, and received His free gift of salvation believe that somehow we need to work for His blessings. While there is some truth to the fact God blesses His children while we are faithful to Him in the here and now, I think God's handfuls of purpose are completely free and not dependent on anything we do.

Like salvation, the gifts and provisions He gives us in our daily lives, when viewed in light of Ruth 2:16, are blessings above and beyond our good works, our hopes, our requests, and our desires.

I think the best way to fully appreciate and acknowledge these handfuls of purpose then is to be thankful to God. Not congratulatory of ourselves in our walks with God and how we've “earned” these blessings, but to acknowledge that without Him, we would not receive these handfuls of purpose, these above and beyond blessings from His Hand.

As I survey my life, I can look back and see many of these kinds of blessings from the Hand of my Savior. I acknowledge that He has provided for me above and beyond what I ever hoped in my education, in my relationships with my family, in my work, in my growth in Him, with the recent gift of a husband and a daughter, and so much more.

It is good for me to remember as I reflect on these handfuls of purpose that God has let fall along my path, that they are from Him alone and are a testament of the greatest gift He could ever give me—His love.

(Source: Mark Oehrhardt on Pixabay)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Girl Who Drew Jesus (Short Story-Fiction)

A short story by Cassandra Benefield

David R. Tribble (on Wikimedia Commons)

THE DAY began with the shade of gray on the sidewalk where the girls took their oversized chalk and began drawing everything that came to their minds.

            “See here. That’s my pa.”

            “He sure has a funny shaped head.”

            And on that same sidewalk a little girl took a tiny square and claimed it as her very own with every color she had. On her slice of the world, there were blues and hues only a Technicolor movie could have made brighter.

            “What are you drawing?”

            “I’m drawing Jesus.”

            “You silly goose, Jesus doesn’t look like that.”

            “How do you know?”

            “I just know.”

            “Well, my Jesus looks like that.”     

            Just then, the little girl who was drawing her very own Jesus packed up her chalk and walked merrily home. She even skipped some.

            One step, two steps, three steps, four. And off she went into her very own door.

            “Hi sweetheart. Did you have fun today?”   

            “Yes, Mommy. I drew Jesus.”

            “Oh. And what did He look like?”

            “He was very colorful.”

            “That’s nice, dear.”

            The little girl put her stuff in the foyer and took off her tennis shoes. It was easy to do, since her laces were on the verge of being untied anyway.

            She pulled her socks up as far as they could go, which happened to be just under her knees. She stood up, wiped the dust off of her pleated skirt and skipped to the kitchen for her afternoon snack. She even hummed a bit.

            “Mommy, what does your Jesus look like?”

            “That’s a good question. I guess He’s the color of fire and of sinless perfection. Of the fullness of time and of endless ages. He’s the color of air and the wings of eagles. He has dove’s eyes and sounds like the voice of many waters.”

            “That sounds pretty.”

            The little girl smiled and swung her feet back and forth under the table. Both feet forward, both feet back. Both feet forward, both feet back. Then, she was done. She took her plate and placed it on the kitchen counter next to the sink, which was just above her head.

            After her snack, she went into the living room and turned on the television.

            “This just in ….”

            The little girl saw on the television people who were angry at each other, yelling and carrying on. Some even had guns.

            “Today in Jerusalem, hundreds have been injured due to a …”

            “Mommy! Mommy!”

            “Yes dear, what is it?”

            “Where is Jerusalem?”

            “It’s in the Middle East. It’s where Jesus walked.”

            “But Mommy, if Jesus was there, why is everybody so mad?”

            “Oh, honey, just because Jesus’ feet touched the same soil as the feet of those that are there now, doesn’t mean there is peace. He told us there would be wars and rumors of wars until His return.”

            “But if He goes there now, surely He will die.”

            “No, dear. The next time He comes, He cannot die. You see, He died the first time He came. He conquered death and has the keys to both hell and death now.”

            “You mean, they can’t kill Him.”

            “That’s right.”

            “I’m so glad.”

            “Do you understand dear, that Jesus died so that we may go live forever in Heaven with Him? All we have to do is believe He is who He said He was. That He was sent from God, His Father, led a perfect life, died on the cross, and rose up from the grave alive, so that we may be saved from our sins.”


            “You know all those colors you painted in your sidewalk today?” 

            “Uh huh.”

            “Did you use black?”

            “Uh huh.”

            “Well, black is kind of like our sins, dark, and filled with all our bad things, like lying, hitting, and so on.”

            “Uh huh.”

            “Did you use red?”

            “Yes mommy, I used red.”

            “That’s His blood. That blood was what was shed to cover our ugly sin.”

            “So the red goes over the black?”

            “That’s right. But only, when we choose to believe in Him as our Savior.”

            “Uh huh.”

            “Did you use white?”

            “Oh yes, that’s my favorite. It’s so bright!”

            “Yes, it is. When Jesus’ blood covers our sin, we are a new creature in Him. It’s like He erases the black and puts in its place the color white. And this is our color forever and ever.”

            “Forever and ever ... wow.”

            “And even though we may do bad things still, when we choose to believe in Jesus, He can never take the white away.”

            “I like white.”

            “Me, too. Did you use yellow?”

            “Uh huh, Mommy, I used yellow. It’s like the sun. And it’s like those pretty flowers you have in your garden.”    

            “That’s right. My sunflowers. Let’s just say that yellow represents gold.”

            “Like your wedding ring?”

            “Yes, like my wedding ring. In Heaven there will be streets of gold. And when Jesus saves us when we believe in Him, He forgives our sin making all our blacks white. And then we are now able to go to Heaven and be with Him when we die.”

            “But He has keys to Hell, right Mommy? You didn’t say He has keys to Heaven.”        

            “That’s true. Jesus is like Heaven’s key. He said ‘I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.’ He’s the One Who knows who can enter and who can’t.”

            “Those with their black not turned white don’t get to come in, right?”

            “Right. Now, did you have any green?”

            “Oh yes Mommy! I had green, and I used it in my picture.”

            “Well, what do you know that’s green?”

            “Umm, trees and leaves and … umm, GRASS! Grass is green, and frogs. Frogs are definitely green, too, Mommy.”

            “Yes, that’s right, dear. But for the moment, let’s just stick with the green grass. When grass dies, it turns brown.”

            “Like our grass?”

            “Yes, dear, like our grass. But if we watered our grass, it would grow very tall and stay green. After Jesus saves us, we need to be well watered by the Bible, in order to stay green and alive.”

            “I have a Bible.”

            “Yes, you do, and when you learn to read a little more, you will be able to grow by reading it. You can also grow by praying and by going to church.”

            “Mommy, I love church! I love to sing. I love to learn those Bible stories. I believe Jesus. I have some blacks that need to be white. I’ve lied before Mommy. I want Him to turn my blacks into pretty white. I want to go to Heaven.”

            “That’s wonderful dear. Let’s ask Jesus together. ‘Dear Jesus.’”

            “Dear Jesus.”

            “Jesus, I believe You are the only way to go to Heaven. I believe You can turn my blacks into beautiful white so I can go to Heaven, too. Thank you Jesus for saving me. Please help me grow. In Jesus name, Amen.”

            The little girl finished the prayer with her mom. Then, she gave her mom the biggest hug ever.       

            “I knew I drew Jesus.”

(Originally written in 2003)

Saturday, May 03, 2014

The Way Everlasting

“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”Psalms 139:23-24

This isn't the first time I have opened a devotion with this verse. But I prayed this the other day, and I wanted to share with you how God has answered that prayer so far. I am always a bit reluctant to pray this prayer or even sing this song during a church invitation, as I want it to be an honest prayer of my heart, and if it is an honest prayer of my heart, I am then afraid of what may be coming down the road for me as answers. Nevertheless, I felt led of the Lord to ask Him to search me, to try me, and then to lead me into His right ways. Today, on the other side of that prayer, I can honestly share with you that I am glad I prayed this. It is a humbling prayer to pray to God because with it, He will cut through the vanity and pride that we crowd our hearts with, and get to the bottom of sins that plague us.

It doesn't have to be an overwhelming flood of corrections and trials to bear fruit. His answer to this prayer may be quieter, and in His mercy, just between Him and you. I believe it is in the latter way that God has brought His answers to my prayer this week. Using the little trials that expose areas in my walk with God that He would like to refine, He has showed me a couple of areas that I need to keep in mind that He is God and that I need Him in every moment of every day. Even though I may be quite capable in the worldly sense of the word, I need to understand that I am really not capable at all, in light of His power, strength, and protection.

The first lesson of the week was that I let a computer virus into my work laptop. It was totally my fault. I knew better, but I was tricked. Of course, I did this on Monday, the start of my week. My Microsoft Outlook email program alone is a treasured asset that I use every day, and I currently do not even have access to that. All I do, that I would normally use Outlook for, such as a distribution list to send out job openings, I have to do from scratch now without my wonderful Outlook contact lists. This doesn't even get into the inconvenience of not being able to have access to the thousands of files that I may need to answer any given question that may come my way. Put it simply, I was bummed. So bummed that I took out some of my frustration on my precious daughter.

Thus, lesson number two. I did not control my temper as well as I could have when my daughter was so whiny (more than usual, I need to add, which is why I believe God used this to test me). I did not respond to her as I wished. I feel so guilty about this because I know over the years God has used many circumstances to draw out my temper problem. A wise preacher shared with me that God does help us overcome our particular sins, and just when we think we've got it handled, that we have gotten the victory, we may get puffed up about it as if somehow it was ourselves and not God who has overcome our sin. In those cases, He may need to draw out our particular sins from time to time in order that we have a healthy respect that it is God who helps us with our sins, not our own efforts. If left to ourselves, we would never overcome our sinful natures.

So, what have I learned about myself after praying Psalms 139:23-24?

In the first lesson of a virus destroying my work laptop, I believe God mainly wanted to test my trust in Him. To know that in the coming days and weeks of this inconvenience, He is in control and that He will provide many ways for me to get through this situation. I just need to rest in Him, trust in Him, and to pray to Him for wisdom to get around the difficulties of not having ready access to my old computer and files.

As for the second lesson on my anger problem, I believe God was testing me so that He could show me again, that this part of my sin nature is always present. And while I may have many victories in this area, I still need Him every day to help me get through my time here on earth without sinful anger and its consequences.

The reason why I can write this to you today in gratitude and with a prayer that it may encourage you, is because both of these situations came with God's precious Romans 8:28 closure. In the case of my computer laptop, I will still have access to my old Outlook as well as my valuable work-related (and even personal) documents. While that alone is a huge relief, I am also getting a brand new laptop, this one that will be at least 10 times better than my other one. Wow! What a great gift!

And in the case with my precious daughter, later that same evening I didn't handle myself as I wanted toward her, she crawled up into my arms, laid tummy down across my chest, and placed her head on my shoulder for several minutes, as I lovingly rubbed her back and basked in the love that only a child can give a mother. It was forgiveness in its most basic form.

Thank You, Jesus. Thank You for searching me, trying me, and then guiding me into the way everlasting. But most of all, thank You for loving me and answering my prayers.

 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that l've God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”Romans 8:28

A beautiful spring view from a window in my home.
(Spokane, WA) 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Being Still

“Be still, and know that I am God.”Psalm 46:10a

I don't know about you, but I know all too well about me, that I am rarely still before my God. My prayer life is very weak. It's a struggle to pray for me in the morning. Reading my Bible and asking God to open my eyes that I might understand His precepts and principles better in His Word comes easy. But prayer and resting in His presence is difficult. I could easily blame the ailment of our age—busyness—and its ripple effects in my life, but the truth is I am just not a very still and patient person. I am so busy with all the activity of my day that I find it sometimes “slow” work just to spend quality time with my precious daughter as she explores every rock, leaf, and branch on our walks together around our block. Sometimes I like concentrating on her explorations because in it I do find rest. I am struck with the awareness that there is much about this life that begs slow and easy exploration, the kind my daughter exudes.

But being still also has another meaning in the presence of our Almighty God. This application came to me the other day in the quiet of my heart when I was meditating on a particular prayer request. Because I didn't quickly see how this particular request could be answered and I was contemplating another of my own ideas to try to quickly achieve the result I was praying for, God had stopped my thoughts in their tracks. In that moment, while I was reading Psalm 46, the Lord clearly, gently, and pointedly told me to “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Again, I don't know about you, but when my eyes don't see what my heart is begging to see, I have a tendency to work in my flesh (not walking in the Spirit) toward accomplishing what I believe and perceive to be God's will. The result being that I often find elusive the rest and the stillness this verse addresses. So, it was nice to be reminded at just the right time that God is in control. No matter how big or small my worries and concerns are I can trust God. He wants me to be still from my own works and ideas, and to know that He is in control. He can turn my burdens and my cares into the directions He wants them to go, and all I need to do is just rest in Him.

I know I've often discussed this in previous posts, but I wanted to mention again that I am so grateful for a God who wants to and does communicate to my heart's needs through His word. This is why I try to avail myself of His counsel daily in the morning before all the day's activity begins. I hope I don't come across self righteous or somehow laudatory when I say I really do love reading God's word for this very reason, as if I am somehow better than those who don't or don't even have these kinds of moments with God while reading His word. That's not my hope. My prayer is all who read this do have those very sweet times of fellowship with the Lord, and if they don't, that somehow they may be encouraged to ask God for them. With that said, God's counsel may come in other ways, but it will never contradict His word. So it is still wise to read His word to familiarize yourself with it so that you will not be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14).

In the end, I believe God is asking us all to be still, and know that He, and He alone is God, and that every care, every worry, can be placed in His hands. He knows what He is doing. Sometimes, He may guide us in such a way to be a part of His work, but sometimes I believe He simply calls on us to rest in Him, as He takes care of our heart's desires and needs.

This was such a timely lesson for me in all my busyness, in all my assumptions that somehow my prayer requests need to be answered by me and my plans in my way. To use a modern phrase, we can sum it up with, “God's got this.”

He does. So, let's honor Him by trusting our needs and hopes and all of our despair and care into His precious hands.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”—Matthew 11:28-30

Saturday, April 19, 2014

An Easter Weekend - 14 Years Ago

I think that's me in the middle. Not 100% sure though.
Much of the blogosphere this week, especially the Christian blogosphere, is full of our Savior and meditating on His glorious resurrection (Praise His Name!), but I wanted to take a different track. As I was pondering what kind of “devotion” I can give to my readers this week, the memory of celebrating Easter learning to scuba dive almost 14 years ago came to my mind. It was for college credit, and it was during the semester I was studying abroad in Thailand through Cal Poly. 

And so, I present to you a letter I wrote home to my dear family and friends after this wonderful experience. For your sake, I did edit it and massage it in some areas, but about 95% of what follows is the exact letter I wrote to my family on April 29, 2000, after I came back from spending time under the sea.

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did rereading it.


Hello everyone! It’s time for another one of those mass email letters. As I sit and scratch my mosquito bites, I ponder over which tale to tell. Which story to focus on. How many words to write. And how much energy I have to write those words.

I guess the only way to start is to begin, so here goes.

I came home today at four o’clock in the morning. Tired? Yes. So, to bed I went, with my mind filled with the last six day’s events. What did I do, you ask? I scuba dove!

When my head connected to the pillow this morning I kept having these mini flashbacks.

The turquoise color of the ocean and its glass-like perfection when looked through.

I saw fish swim by. Two angel fish, always two together, swimming near my mask – beautiful yellow, white and black.

I saw little fish dive into holes in the sand and wondered again in my mind, where on earth could they have gone?

I also recollected my encounter with Mr. Mean and Nasty Triggerfish, with his trigger way up and his teeth way clamped on my fins. Bye-bye Mr. Triggerfish, as fast as I can.

But most of all, with my head on the pillow and my body on the bed, I still felt that magical weightless feeling of being in the water. Of swimming with fins side by side with all kinds of life I have never seen before. Floating, floating … off to sleep.

The Thai island of Ko Toa was gorgeous. I saw the ocean and said to myself, “Yes, this is going to be a vacation.” Wrong. This was going to be the prettiest P.E. I’ve ever had. But P.E., nonetheless.

My bungalow was one of the ones closest to the ocean, with a dungeon for a bathroom. It was connected about seven steps down from the room and was a bit scary, with bugs lurking in every corner.

If memory serves, my bungalow is the one pictured here on the bottom left.
In front of my bungalow, there were boats on the water swaying peacefully under the hot Thai sun. Gorgeous stones lined the island giving it a sense of independence from all other tropical locations. And I can’t forget the towering palms, indigenous and well-nourished from the tropical climate. It was simply gorgeous, despite the creepy crawlies.

But the whole reason I was there was to take the Open Water Diving class. When I saw we had to do homework and actually read a book, I’m not going to lie, I was a little bummed. When you’re halfway around the world in such a gorgeous location, the last thing you want taking up you’re precious discovery time is homework.

The first day in the water was the day after I arrived. That was a little intimidating. You are wearing so much weight; my weight belt alone weighed six kilos. I can’t tell you how much my 12-liter aluminum tank on my back weighed but I imagine it was a lot. Getting in the water with all that equipment on for the first time was bizarre, but I immediately loved that weightless feeling of floating in the water. I remember little fish, an all of two species, would swim by and I thought WOW! Little did I know I had many more amazing visuals in store for me!

We learned some scuba diving skills. Confidence building they call it. I won’t bore you (or me) with the details. Just know that despite my awe under the water, I was a little anxious. You know that whole air-and-what-if-it-runs-out thoughts? Yeah, those thoughts. But, I pressed on.

The next two days were the same. Only the skills were a little harder and the destinations were a little deeper.

The open water diver is qualified to dive 18 meters or 56 feet. With much lazy studying and barely passing the final test, I was certified. Yay! And I had fun despite the homework.

So when they offered a two-day Advanced Open Water diving course after that, I decided to stay, albeit a little reluctantly. You see, an Advanced Open Water Diver is certified to dive to 30 meters, which is about 100 feet below the ocean. That was a little daunting to me—to have 100 feet of water above my head—but I thought, okay, I'll give it a try.

The fact that there would be no homework for this certification happened to be a strong selling point. Not to mention, that in order to do any other diving, Ocean Photography being one of those, I had to take the advanced class. 

We had five dives to accomplish: a deepwater (30m), and multi-level (which we plan), a night dive (a little freaky), a peak performance buoyancy dive (where you go through loops with all of your gear under water much like a circus animal – this one I had the most fun with and did the best—impressing both my instructor and my learning mates), and a navigation dive (using a compass).

They were actually more fun than the dives in the previous certification class, and by the time I was done with them all I was one exhausted person. So, as of right now, I’m a forever-certified advanced open water diver! I would never have thought I would ever do something like this, let alone in a location halfway around the world I know.

And now, the more interesting stuff: what was under that gorgeous crystal clear ocean? I have to be honest, I think I spent more time under water watching where my buddy was and looking at how much air my air gauge said I had. But when I wasn't preoccupied with those things, I saw some spectacular sites.

I saw this school of fish (of 50? 100? or more?) so close together, not really moving in any direction, but still enough to be organized in such a way as to look as if it were some larger fish, a whale maybe – just suspended in the water for the eyes to see.

The cutest things I saw were these clown fish in their “homes,” their homes being these gorgeous anemones. How to describe these anemones? Well they were kind of Dr. Seuss-like. They were clothed in bright turquoise and beautiful blue colors and had these Raggedy-Ann-like hairs coming out of the top, a kind of mustard yellow. And the clown fish resided in them, played tag around them (I would have liked to watch that more) and even cleaned them. When our instructor dropped a shell in the anemone, a clown fish would pick it up and throw it out. So precious.

I think if I were to come out of this with a main thought in mind it would have to be that I was swimming in God’s fish tank, and it was a marvelous site to behold, not to mention just as fun to be in. If you like the idea of flying – you can do that in the water. If you love fish – this is the best way to see them. If you like to try new things – this is an adventure worth having.

So, when my days were over, my nights would begin, and I would sit on my balcony, listen to the ocean waves, and reflect about the days spent in such beauty both inside and alongside the Thai ocean. Peace would fill my soul with each breath of wind, and my closing thoughts melted onto the pages of my journal beneath my candle-like lighting. My eyes would absorb the ocean’s reflection of the many lights on the island, and my heart would fill with joy.

One of the most peaceful and relaxing views ... a boat on the water.
(Ko Tao Island, Thailand)
Truly, this was an adventure given to me by God, and it was a very unique way to celebrate Easter with my Savior. Here, He was showing me a little more of Himself in His artistic and majestic ocean and the beauties within and beside it.

What a privilege to travel with God. You never know where He might take you when your days end, your nights begin and your sleep becomes just the beginning of what's ahead.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Jesus Paid It All

“The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”—Romans 7:12

“The law of the LORD is perfect.”—Psalm 19:7

I have a dear friend who I crossed paths with before many years ago and today we are attending the same church. One get together and one phone conversation after another, she has been discipling me. Many of you who know me may think that I already have learned so much about God and His Word over the years. And you would be right. I say that not to highlight my achievements in studying (which are really a far cry from what others have to study for degrees and so on) but to emphasize, we never stop needing to learn and grow in Christ. Like most relationships, my relationship with the Lord has its ups and downs. And lately, my general fellowship with Him in His Word and among His people can be compared to someone wandering in a desert in desperate need of an oasis. My soul craves to know something more about Him. To enter that next step in my relationship with Him. We see Peter encouraging us, through God's Holy Spirit, to do the same: “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

That growing in grace is no casual statement for me either because it is this topic that my friend has been discipling me on. God knew exactly how to encourage me to grow in His grace and in the knowledge of Him by using someone who is as intense as I am about studying the Bible. It is fun for us to read great doctrinal truths and to go deeper into the knowledge of God's Word. Now, lest it sound like I'm looking for new revelation or truth, like the Gnostics of the New Testament days, I assure you this is not the case. The knowledge I am seeking is always there and changes not. But what has changed has been my readiness to receive this next level of growth in Him. And it has been a marvelous thing!

So, why do I open this post with verses on the law above? Well, one of the books I was encouraged to read by this friend was Alva McClain's Law and Grace booklet. I own his The Greatness of the Kingdom book, which is his theological masterpiece on the doctrine of the Kingdom in Scripture. It is a book I was highly recommended to read many years ago (and one I'm still in the process of reading) while I was an intern with the Fundamental Evangelistic Association when it was located in Los Osos, Calif. All that to say, I knew Law and Grace was a book that could be trusted because of who the author was. I read this 80-page booklet, and what impressed me most was just how holy and perfect God's law is. McClain shows how the law cannot be separated into three parts (ceremonial, civil, and moral) like it is generally done in Christendom and has been done down through the ages. His argument is that this separating of the law into parts and believing that only some of the law has been fulfilled in Christ (as in the ceremonial and the civil), has been the cause of much confusion and false teaching, especially resulting in the various forms of legalism we see and experience in every generation.

Below are three quotes that encapsulate how God's law relates to His grace, which is the truth that I wanted to share with you today. But first, I think it's helpful to understand that God's law was given because of man's transgressions (Galatians 3:19). This shows me that the law was given for protection against ourselves, which also shows us that God is gracious and loving. This was yet another eye-opening understanding for me, even though that truth was always in Scripture. 

Now, the quotes from "Law Unable to Save Men," Chapter 3 of Law and Grace.

“The law's demands could not be relaxed to accommodate the weakness of men. This is the curious idea that some people hold. Grace, to them, is God's tolerance in lowering the absolute demands of the law to the point where sinners can keep it. Such a misconception dishonors both the law and grace” (pg. 21).

“It was necessary, therefore, for God to devise a plan for saving sinners without any relaxation of the law. This brings us to the very heart of the gospel … the Son of God incarnate at Calvary paid man's obligation to broken law to the last farthing … Jesus paid it all” (Emphasis mine-pg. 22).

“The law of God can do nothing to save sinners. It cannot save us from the guilt of sin. It cannot keep us from the dominion of sin. It cannot provide a sufficient motive for obedience to the law. It cannot supply the power necessary to keep its requirements. It cannot recover us when we break the law. May God open our eyes to understand that our 'help cometh from the LORD' (Ps. 121:2). Our only hope is in Him” (pg. 23).

I just can't articulate these truths better than McClain. The law was fulfilled at the cross, and since then, all of God's children are free from the weight, burden, condemnation, and judgment of the law. We, who are His children, walk in grace today...not a grace that minimizes God's law but a grace that looks to Jesus, and with adoration and weeping, we fall down at His feet and say, thank You, Jesus, for what You did on my behalf. Thank You for saving me and giving me Your Holy Spirit to walk in newness of life.

What I have been learning in bits and pieces about His law and His grace has been a tremendous blessing to my heart, and it has given me a tender heart for His children who want to go back under God's holy and perfect law. It's not necessary. Jesus paid it all. We are free from the law!

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that is was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: The righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:1-4).

Is that not a gorgeous section of Scripture in light of reading about the perfection of the law and how we are now set free in Christ? It's glorious! The way to tell if you are then walking in the Spirit or in the flesh is to read Galatians 5:16-26, where God reveals to us the difference between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.

If we are walking in the Spirit, it is not because of any goodness in ourselves. We need to understand that it is Christ in us, that gives us the power to walk in His Spirit, not our will or the works of our flesh. I believe many Christians are religious and think they are walking in the Spirit, but when one considers the results of their religion and religious teachings, they can be summarized by works of the flesh. Namely these—wrath, strife (contention, fighting, dissension, friction, rivalry, conflict are all synonyms of strife), seditions, heresies, and such the like.

My Christianity of the past was rife with these works of my flesh. Through this step in my growth in Him, in learning more about God’s law and His glorious grace, I now see how wrong I was.

Moving forward, I pray that my Christianity and my walk with Him and in Him permeates this glorious truth, that Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe.

(From Wikimedia Commons)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Praise Ye the Lord

“Praise ye the LORD.”—Psalm 150:6b

The last phrase in the entire Book of Psalms is an exhortation to praise the Lord, which is an exhortation in itself as this verse segment ends a book filled not with just spiritual highs, but also many lows. 

I believe further revelation about the idea of praising the Lord can be summed up in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” I believe God is telling us in this passage that we aren't to focus on the negative, but on the positive all around us. We are to think on the things that are lovely, of a good report, and that are virtuous, to name a few things that verse describes. And when we do think on these things, the end result can only be praise to our Lord.

As I go about my day, I am encouraged to be in constant communion with the Lord in praising His name and thinking on all the good I see in the world around me. For example, I can either concentrate my thoughts on the eczema spot that is developing on my daughter's forehead or I can praise the Lord that she can walk around the house, when so many children cannot. It's not that I shouldn't address the patch of dry skin on my child's forehead, but I must not let the negative aspects of such a condition overshadow all the good I can be thankful to God for about her health. I also shouldn't let it overshadow my hope and trust in God to clear this up somehow, when I bring this issue to Him in prayer. (For the sake of full disclosure, this last sentence convicts me because I haven't prayed for His guidance to either lead me to a product that will bring its healing or His power to heal it without my help!)

Work is a great spiritual testing place as it draws out either our praise or our complaints. I can be under so much pressure at work, with more and more paperwork stacking onto the already massive piles on my desk and start wondering if it will ever end. I can be grumpy that I don't have an assistant who can help me with my tasks as I assist others in my job. Or I can praise the Lord for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to be able to work part-time from home, while my daughter is young, even though I may not get everything done in a manner I would if I went into work every day at full-time hours.

Then, there is the guilt that comes so naturally to mothers. I can choose to be weighed down with guilt about not being able to give my daughter my full and undivided attention throughout the day, or I can praise God that while I'm working at home, she often plays near me and that we are at the very least in each others' presence. I can feel insecure for putting in a long  DVD for her to watch so that I can work at length on time-sensitive projects with little to no interruption. Or I can be grateful that I get to spend quality time with my daughter in the middle of my days by going to story times in the library, going on walks around the neighborhood, or even reading books together and playing tea time with her and her several Sesame Street plush dolls.

My favorite middle-of-the-day activity lately has been visiting a park and walking around with her as she discovers new sights, sounds, and textures. I enjoy listening to my daughter say hi to little girls her age and dogs her size. I savor the look in her eyes as she walks across a field 100x larger than anything she's traveled on with her own two feet before. I love the wonder in her expression as she takes in the largeness of the park fenced in with beautifully tall trees. I love the look of independence on her face as she follows her own path. What a treat that is! I may not get all the work done I thought I needed to complete in a day, but I get to experience my beautiful daughter as she discovers her world. So, what should I say? You got it, praise the Lord!

So, if I start feeling weighed down or guilty about what I'm doing or not doing or how I am or how I am not, I should ask God if there is any sin in what I'm doing. If there is, I need to ask Him to forgive me (1 John 1:9) and to gently correct my walk (Psalm 139: 23-24). If there is no sin, I then need to get my thoughts out of the guilt pit and onto the good that is happening all around me in every moment of every day. It may take some time at first to get my vision on the things God wants me to think about, but I believe with prayer and practice, thinking on the good and all that's mentioned in Philippians 4:8 will eventually become habit.

One final thought. If I am having a hard time thinking on the good right in front of me, that is the good in the temporal or physical realm, I am without excuse because the ultimate praise I have for Him is simply because He is and that I am His child.

So, just as the Book of Psalms ends, let us all be encouraged to redeem our time wisely by seeing something to praise Him for throughout our days on earth. While the natural man is not wired this way, thankfully, praising Him in Heaven will come naturally. Because only then, will we be freed from our sinful bodies and see Him as He is.

Praise ye the Lord!

Our Backyard (Spokane, WA)
March 26, 2014

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Without Me You Can Do Nothing

“For without me ye can do nothing.”—John 15:5

I have yet to read a book written by Andrew Murray, but I know he is well known as someone who teaches on prayer very well. During a sermon about a year ago, God spoke to me about three stages of a Christian’s life he defines in his book “Absolute Surrender.”

The first is “I can do it.” This stage is full of our pride, our accomplishments, and our selves. Here is where we fail and then move into the second phase “I can’t do it.” While true, God doesn't want you to stop here. Unfortunately, though, this is where a lot of Christians stop in their walks with God. Through various battles of discouragement, the cares of this world, and frankly, the lies of the devil they come to believe, many Christians stop here and never go further, as they wait on this side of Heaven for their call up. They never reach the Victorious Christian Life on this plain. Instead, they remain on the outer fringes of the Promised Land never tasting the milk and honey of a land where our relationship with God is full and free and our affections for the things of this world die daily.

The last stage is “God can do it through me.” In the sermon, I was again reminded that it is in this stage God can use us. It does not matter if we have skills or talents. I think it could also be added that it doesn’t matter if we have a willing heart because that, too, can be a source of pride. We cannot be fully used of God until we absolutely surrender to Him. I think of my gifts and abilities. My willingness to be used of God. And I have to be honest that I feel like I’m in that first stage again.

I believe throughout the history of my walk with Jesus, He has brought me through these stages over and over. I do not think, at least for me, that this Christian walk is so black and white that once we have crossed over into the Promised Land, that we cannot go back and spend time in the previous stages. Just in reading the Old Testament, the history of the Kings of Judah, for instance, we can see the many ups and downs of God’s people.

I also believe one area of our Christian life may have gotten to the Promised Land, but there are other aspects of our lives that God is still fine-tuning so that He can use us for His glory … for His Kingdom … for that heavenly city where the fruits of His work will reside.

Lord Jesus, you know my arrogance. And you know my willingness. You know my fleshly pride. And you know my desire to be closer to you. I am all mixed up on this plain, believing a lie that to surrender my life to You, which would make an end of me, would be a negative. In one sense it will be. I know my flesh won’t like it. But I know my spirit will thrive and learn of its purpose, and it is only when this happens, that I begin to understand without You, I can do nothing.

Manito Park Rose Garden (Spokane, WA)
September 2007

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ponder the Path of Thy Feet

“Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established.”Proverbs 4:26

“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.”Proverbs 4:25

“Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.”Proverbs 5:15

In a most tender and loving way, God encourages me in these verses to look to my own path before Him - to rejoice in my own walk with Him.

Simply, He is telling me to concentrate on my relationship with Him.

Too often, my walk gets distorted by my judging others, either in a loving or a critical way, and how they are or are not walking with the Lord, and I get side-tracked from my own walk.

It’s like this. I am walking down the road God has for me. I am walking with joy in the closeness I feel toward Jesus, I am feeding on the Word, and I am rejoicing in the knowledge it gives me about Him. And then, all of a sudden, I see someone struggling in life because I perceive they are not walking with the Lord. I see them perhaps making a foolish decision and then I allow it to affect my walk in Christ. I think, if they would only [fill in the blank], they would be right with God.

Unfortunately, because of that direction of my thoughts, I soon lose focus on my own walk. And it is a struggle to find my way back to basking in the sunshine of His love on my own path!

So Lord, when my vision gets a little distorted, please teach me to pray for those who are struggling in You, and help me leave them in Your perfect care. If You decide to use me to help assist them in their struggles, then, please grant me the grace and love to speak Your truth into their hearts, giving You all the praise and glory for the insight. Or should You decided to use my actions to help and serve them while they are in this phase of their lives, please help me surrender my will to Yours that they may see my good works and glorify Our Father in Heaven.

Then, Lord, help me me go on to perfection – a maturity in You – because that is what You are encouraging me to do in these verses above and in other passages of Your Word.

In Your precious Name I pray, Amen.

Onesti, Romania (June 2005)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Words of Knowledge

“Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the 
words of knowledge.”Proverbs 19:27

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”—Hosea 4:6a

Christianity is a belief system in which its adherents are encouraged to study. That does not mean we need doctorate-level (or even college-level) studies in order to practice our faith more perfectly. No. All of God's children have varying degrees of intelligence and varying degrees of interest. One believer may have a moderate level of education, for example, and loves to delve into the Scriptures by way of word studies. This believer may know he needs to understand God's view of patience more clearly, so that he may apply that quality to his own life. He would then seek out verses that use this word, read and memorize those verses, and then read those verses in context to the verses surrounding it for a deeper perspective and a clearer understanding of how patience applied in each of those circumstances.

You may also have a believer that just can't get enough of theology and how individuals down through history approached their faith. She would study the lives of great theologians and learn the concepts they defined and then learn the concepts of others (contemporary or not) who may or may not agree with this theologian's concepts, and then begin to study what they believe. From there, through her own knowledge of Scripture and by way of much prayer that God would guide her into all truth (John 16:13), she would seek God and ask Him to show her what He thinks of these rich theological concepts by way of His word.

There are Christians who love studying the end times and can't get enough of learning about current and future events and how they relate to biblical prophecies. There are Christians who love poetry and wisdom and so want to read the poetic books of the Bible, over and over and over again, so that the truths in these passages (of Proverbs for example) just start to become his own thoughts as he goes about his days. There are Christians who love to read missionary tales of current and past individuals who lived their faith out loud to a lost and dying world. Simply said, there is so much we can be fascinated with about God and His word that would encourage us to study deeper.

Studying God's word also protects us from the lies that we come across in false doctrine and false teachings. God expects us to study to show ourselves approved unto Him so that we can rightly divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). This is key in our age of too much information because there are many voices and many ideas out there in our world that are clamoring for our attention. In order to clearly maneuver in these waters, we need to make sure our ship and our sails are without damage, and that our anchor is sure. That ship, sail, and anchor can be said to be God's holy and precious word and the basic truths He communicates to us through His word. Without knowledge of His truth to steady us, we will be like children, the Bible says, “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).

So, how do I cease from hearing instruction that leads to my destruction? I feel very fortunate because I happen to love studying. I love learning and diving deeper into subjects that interest me, and I am blessed with a thirst to know God's ways and to know His word. He has blessed me over and over in my own personal life with deeper understandings on this or that subject. But that thirst is not constant and it does change as far as what subjects I want to study or that He’s leading me to study.

For example, in my earlier walk with the Lord, I loved studying other religions and all the different views even within Christianity. That changed into a desire to know and understand my Bible better, and then led me into the discipline of reading my Bible every day. As time went on, I was then led to take a three year Bible college course that taught on every book of the Bible and how each book fit into the other to make the whole Bible. That was a beautiful and enriching study. I also love preaching, so I am someone who actually likes to attend church and listen to the biblical messages God has given His man to speak on in the pulpit. Today, though, I haven't been as thirsty, and I began to ask God to revive my thirst to know Him more and to live for Him better according to His word. I can speak honestly that God has given me a couple lessons this week alone that have begun quenching a newly growing thirst for Him and His ways.

But even if I'm not thirsty, I try to read my Bible every morning. It may be a chapter or two or several chapters. Lately, I have been reading one chapter in the Old Testament, one chapter in the New Testament, my daily Proverbs chapter, and as many as five chapters in Psalms. Before I read my chapters, I pray Psalms 119:18, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” With that prayer comes an expectation that God will bring to light any subject my spirit needs to feed on before I begin my day. And I think that's why I have a love for His word. He has used my morning Bible readings over and over to speak truths to me that I desperately needed or didn't even know I needed until He showed them to me.

So, as God's people, we need to study His word. This is a truth we see throughout the Bible. We need it so that we understand our place in the world and so that we understand His will for our lives better. But, perhaps most importantly, we need to study His word because if we don't, our knowledge of Him will slowly fade away and we will be setting ourselves up for destruction.

Let us be Christians who study God's word. But more than that, let us be Christians who love His word.

"This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.”
—Joshua 1:8

John 6:13 in my Bible

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